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In 1997, Circle K sat down with Westec Interactive to develop a security system based on the needs of its stores as well as the industry. Today, Westec’s interactive video solution is at 80 of Circle K's 280 western region locations, and as of this year, Westec’s digital DVR system is at the 200 remaining stores.
"The interactive video is activated by employees pushing a button in the store and activating an alarm, and Westec voices over a loudspeaker into the store saying, 'this is Westec security, we are monitoring the store,'" said Kirk Luke, loss prevention director for Circle K's western region, headquartered in Corona, Calif.
Employees can then ask Westec to monitor the store if they feel unsafe or if there is a problem with an unruly customer, and they can also ask Westec to call 911. "Westec also dials into our store every shift change to assess what is going on in the store and to voice down to the employee, and everyone in the store can hear them."
Circle K is leasing the hardware and pays a monthly fee for the interactive service. "I could buy the system for less than leasing, but this saves me from having to repair anything and because the initial expense is less, I could put the system in more stores," said Luke. "Also, if I buy a DVR system today, in six months it will be obsolete. With leasing, I get the updated equipment."
Out of 280 stores, 80 locations feature the interactive service and the rest have a digital DVR system without the interactive capabilities, which is also from Westec. "We chose the 80 locations based on the type of crimes at the store locations," said Luke. "We looked at inventory shortages as well as location issues like if a store is near a bank, school or prison."
In addition to Westec, market managers can also dial in to monitor their designated stores. "We assigned IP addresses to each of our locations and market managers can dial in via a laptop to the stores using the interactive system," explained Luke. "This is done using a DSL line that goes through out network."
Circle K also pays per store for an audit service provided by Westec. In stores where shrink is a problem, Luke calls on Westec to look at the last 30 days of video and match any voids, refunds, suspended transactions and big ticket items to the video tape.
"We get audited every three months, and in some locations every month," said Luke. "Westec will go back 30 days and send me a report with a picture of the individual suspected, and to the right of the picture is the receipt of the purchase," explained Luke. "Every store I’ve had Westec do an audit on found at least three employees stealing from the company, and I have had enough evidence to prosecute them."
Besides the benefits of reducing shrink, employee turnover has decreased. "Our employees feel comfortable working in our stores because they know someone is there if they need help," said Luke. "They just push a button and say, 'can you call 911.' Also, from the manager’s standpoint, I can sit in California and dial into stores in Washington, New Mexico and Arizona and deal with situations without having to get on a plane."
The next step Circle K is working on with Westec is a preventative maintenance program where Westec will dial into the stores once a month, whether interactive or not, and check to see if the systems are working properly.
"They can tell if a store is still recording or if there is a malfunction with the CD burner and give us a status report," said Luke. Also, Westec will get an alarm if a system goes down and can notify Circle K.
"With the DVR unit, if you unplug it, it is instantly killed. An employee can easily just unplug the system and not be watched. This way, Westec can call me and say store 489’s DVR just went out. We are in the process of getting this developed with Westec."